How Long Does It Take to Detox from Alcohol at Home?

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How long does it take to detox from alcohol at home?

How long it takes to detox at home will depend on the individual. In the first 2-4 days dealing with withdrawal symptoms needs to be managed. About 7 days later the detox process should have been completed. After the final phase of the detox process, people often rely on on-going support. 

Alcohol detox is the first step towards the treatment of alcohol use disorder. It is a process that flushes out the toxins caused by alcohol abuse from your body.

This can unfortunately cause the patient to experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

When your body develops alcohol dependence over a long time, it progresses into alcoholism or alcohol addiction.

Because your body is used to receiving these chemicals, your brain will stop producing them which then becomes dependency. 

When you make a decision to quit drinking your brain will then struggle as a result of not receiving the chemicals, and hence severe symptoms will develop as it withdraws as well.  

How to detox at home from alcohol and how long the process might take is discussed in the article below. 

Now, how long does it take?

There are also various factors in place that determine this timeline, such as:  

  • How intense your alcohol consumption has been? 
  • Whether or not you have access to professional treatment. 
  • Your commitment levels. 
  • The impact of potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. 

Therefore, you cannot accurately predict this, but basically about a week is enough for the withdrawal symptoms to lessen. 

For some people however, this could take longer. According to professionals, addiction treatment is quite unpredictable and due to the withdrawal process, a mental health services administration, who can provide medical advice is extremely vital and necessary. 

Different Levels of Alcohol Addiction 

As mentioned earlier, medical detox can be affected by your level of addiction. This is why the detoxification process can be affected by the following: 

Mild to moderate alcohol addiction 

Heavy drinking can be classified as moderate or mild. According to advanced recovery systems, most people experience a severe form of withdrawal symptoms if they have been abusing alcohol for a long time.  

Mild or moderate alcoholism will result in withdrawal symptoms a few hours after their last drink. This process of course, differs person to person. 

Severe alcoholism 

If you suffer from severe alcoholism, you are likely to experience severe detox symptoms, and also experience delirium tremens.

Withdrawal delirium will require advanced recovery systems and medical assistance from a qualified admissions representative. 

Final stage alcohol abuse can make the severe withdrawal symptoms like hallucinations, tremors, and delirium tremens DTs more intense.  

Timeline for Alcohol Detox

When you experience withdrawal symptoms, it can feel like forever, but that is not really the case, here's what is happening.  

Six to eight hours 

A few hours after you stop drinking, alcohol detox can feel like the worst thing on earth. You will start having cravings for alcohol, and this stage may feel like a prolonged hangover. 

There will be a strong need to drink, especially when you wake up in the morning. The early symptoms will reduce after a few days though. 

They include: 

  • Shakiness, 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 

Between 12 and 24 hours 

At this point, nausea is pretty common, and you may start to experience a loss of appetite and abdominal pain.

These will then move on to the mild or moderate phase which includes mood swings, rapid heartbeat, increased blood pressure, etc. 

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome must be treated properly to avoid another late-stage alcoholism which can happen when heavy drinkers relapse. 

24 to 48 hours  

Minor withdrawal may peak at this time, and then begin to subside. Mood swings are likely to linger on for a longer detox period, but medical attention will reduce withdrawal symptoms pretty fast. 

Fever, sweating, irregular heartbeat, and irritability are pretty common now. However, Abnormal vital signs are more common, including high blood pressure and respiration. 

48 to 72  

72 hours after your last drink, alcohol withdrawal symptoms will become more severe, and may include delirium tremens. This is a more severe form of alcohol withdrawal, and one that's extremely fatal during alcohol detox. 

It is accompanied by a high heart rate, fever, seizures, hallucinations, confusion, and agitation. 

Clearly goes to show the price you have to pay for a sober life. But keep at it, as success is around the corner.  

When these symptoms occur, be sure seek treatment immediately, and opt for a medical professional to help you throughout the rest of the treatment, and any other severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms that occur. 

After 72 hours 

A few days since your last drink, your symptoms will lighten and in most cases, they will decrease after five to seven days.  

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Other Factors Affecting Alcohol Detox 

According to a 2015 New England Journal article on the management of delirium tremens, around 50% of people who go through alcohol detox will experience alcohol symptoms when they stop drinking.

Doctors further estimate that 3-5% of them will have severe symptoms. [2] 

There are multiple factors in play when it comes to withdrawal from alcohol and a doctor considers the following as factors causing a high risk of severe symptoms:  

  • An abnormal liver function 
  • A history of seizures with alcohol withdrawals 
  • A history of Delirium tremens. 
  • A low platelet counts 
  • A low potassium level 
  • An older age at the time of withdrawal 
  • A low sodium level 
  • Any pre-existing dehydration 
  • The presence of brain lesions 
  • The use of other drugs 

If you experience these risk factors when you stop drinking, then its wise that you do your detox at a medical facility that is well- equipped to deal with the complications. 

Other factors affecting the length of time a person detoxes 

  • The person's tolerance to alcohol. 
  • The severity of the addiction 
  • The average amount of alcohol consumed. 
  • Their drinking habits such as binge drinking or steady drinking. 
  • Their age. 

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms 

The detox process, as we have mentioned above will bring in some withdrawal symptoms a few hours after your last drink.  

The body is trying to work to maintain balance which will signal your brain to become more active with the neurotransmitter and receptors excited, which stimulates the central nervous system.  

Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal 

Alcohol detox is the first step towards the treatment of alcohol abuse, and it is recommended to be done under medical supervision, even with unpredictable alcohol withdrawal symptoms.  

Most people will require medication through alcohol withdrawal, whether mild or moderate.

Doctors prescribe medication for the seizures, to depress the central nervous system and to reduce the severity of these symptoms. 

Alcohol use disorder needs a lot of support, especially when going through the detox process, because when you experience symptoms such as delirium tremens DTs, it can be life threatening. 

The doctor could also prescribe some medication that will help you avoid drinking again and to reduce alcohol cravings that extends your period of abstinence.  

One suggestion for substance abuse treatment would be to do it step by step.  

Here are some options to managing this:  

Gradual reduction of alcohol intake 

Instead of doing it instantly, which can cause a whole bevy of health conditions, you should consider tapering off the alcohol, a little at a time. 

Make time 

Even if you do not go to the rehab clinic, being at home requires just as much commitment and you should consider making time for the detox process. 

Eating healthy 

Being at home requires vigilance. Ensure to have a plan for eating healthy, as this gives you strength for the process.  

Rehydrating 

Water will be required during home alcohol detox due to the intense sweating which leads to losing water. Drinking fluids will reduce the risks of dehydration and symptoms such as fatigue and headaches. 

Some relaxation time 

You must relax. Take time some yoga classes, meditation, and warm baths. This gives you time to recharge and detox safely. 

Alcohol Detox: Levels of Care 

There are many treatment options for the detox process. This includes the use of trained medical professionals, support groups, inpatient care, and home alcohol detox. 

All of these can help you start your journey towards alcohol use disorder treatment.  

Medical detox programs offer a wide range of medical monitoring and other pharmacological interventions, and in case of alcohol withdrawal you will have enough support to help through the process. 

Social detox refers to a short term and non-medical alcohol withdrawal period. The programs can be done at home and must be supervised. 

Inpatient detox - This is detox treatment at a residential or inpatient clinic, where you live there for the duration of the detox.

The best thing about it is that you can easily transition from detox to full time addiction treatment while at the clinic. 

Outpatient detox - In this case you get to go to the rehab clinic when needed. There are plenty of activities happening and you must adhere to a strict schedule in order to have success.  

What is Medically Assisted Detox? 

This refers to detoxing under the supervision of a medical professional, who are always on hand to deal with the challenges associated with detox.  

Even When the serious withdrawal risks are not a factor, a detox with medical support helps during the early recovery process and avoids too much suffering when going through the process. 

Most people will suffer though the symptoms and the professionals will provide medication to help with this. When you detox on your own at home, these are certainly not available, and they could prove fatal at times. 

Any level of detox, however, is uncomfortable and your body is stressed as a result of all the symptoms  

Medical management is critical for success, and it also minimizes the chances of fatalities as a result of the withdrawal process.  

Experiencing severe withdrawal cannot always be predicted, and you will find people who do not experience any symptoms at all, and medical withdrawal settings are sought for when the symptoms become harmful. 

The most severe risks for complications of alcohol withdrawal arise due to the following reasons: 

Medication used during a medical detox 

Medical detox makes use of the following medications to help with the withdrawal process.  

They include: 

  • Benzodiazepines like lorazepam,  
  • Alprazolam, and  
  • Diazepam  

What Next? 

As mentioned earlier, detox is simply the first step towards alcohol abuse treatment, and this means that, no matter how successful the detox process is, you should never stop there. 

Find a rehab clinic and enrol in it, so you can start the more intense process of alcohol treatment, which will involve a whole range of services such as intense therapy, group sessions, help for your family members, and after care.  

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

Last Updated: November 3, 2021

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.